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Freedom of information legislation, state compliance and the discourse of knowledge: The South African experience

Authors
Journal
The International Information & Library Review
1057-2317
Publisher
Informa UK (Taylor & Francis)
Publication Date
Volume
37
Issue
2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.iilr.2005.05.003
Disciplines
  • Law
  • Linguistics

Abstract

Summary In this paper, we use the example of post-apartheid South Africa since 1994 as a case study, with US experience as a point of reference, to begin a modest deconstruction of some of the nomothetic assumptions implicit in general freedom of information (FoI) discourse. Using the Roberts–Snell model to analyze South African levels of administrative compliance with FoI legislation, we conclude that a lack of capacity and some deliberate evasion have combined to produce poor performance levels in the first years. Turning to low public demand, we examine language and discourse problems arising from the extreme diversity of South African society and the status domination of English, a minority language. In conclusion, we argue that although FoI may or may not be a genuine human rights issue in the strict sense, there is little doubt that unless FoI practices are articulated with other civil and human rights, societal change may be a long time coming.

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